Eight plead not guilty in shooting death of young mother

By Joe Gorman



Eight people charged in a series of shootings that culminated in the death of a McBride Street woman were arraigned Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Pleading not guilty before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum to charges in the death of Crystal Hernandez, 24, was Martize Daniels, 18; Burton McGee, 19; Marquise Torres-Willis, 22; Joquaun Blair, 21; Maurice Redrick, 19; and Larenz Rhodes, 18.

Gabriel Smith, 19, and Lavante Perry, 24, entered not-guilty pleas to charges of felonious assault.

Police said Smith tried to steal money and drugs from the six, who then shot at him in retaliation. Smith, in turn, enlisted Perry in a retaliation shooting of his own, culminating in the six shooting up the East Side apartment of Hernandez on Jan. 24. Hernandez was Smith’s girlfriend. Smith was not at the apartment.

Police said first responders found Hernandez bleeding from the neck with her 2-year-old son asleep on her chest. The boy was not harmed.

Police collected more than 40 shell casings from three different weapons at the crime scene.

All the cases were assigned to Judge Anthony Donofrio. Pretrial dates for all eight defendants are set for Friday, and trial dates for all eight were set for April 22, although those are expected to be pushed back.

The six defendants charged with the murder of Hernandez have been held in the county jail on $1 million bond each since they were arraigned in municipal court. Judge Krichbaum said he would defer any action on the bonds to Judge Donofrio.

Perry and Smith have been in jail on $50,000 bond each since their arrests. Judge Krichbaum also said he would defer their bonds to Judge Donofrio.